Monday, October 10, 2011
Obscurity of the Day: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was a surprise bestselling novel of 1925 by Anita Loos. Despite garnering tepid response from critics, the public went mad over the adventures of gold-digging flapper Lorelei Lee and sent the book through twenty printings in just its first year of publication.
Bell Syndicate smelled a good property for comic strip adaptation, procured the rights and had the feature on the market in a matter of a few months. The strip debuted sometime in April 1926 (can anyone supply the exact date?) with art by Virginia Huget. This was Huget's first newspaper series, but it was a good move for her as it may have been an entree into her later high-profile Sunday magazine cover series like Miss Aladdin, Babs in Society and Double Dora.
The writing on the strip is credited to Anita Loos herself, but the chances that she actually had anything to do with it are slim. Although Loos was an astonishingly productive writer (check out the long list of screenplays on her IMDB page), she was putting most of her energy in 1926 to writing a Broadway show version of the novel. My guess is that Huget, who later wrote flapper material in the same vein as Loos, handled her own writing chores on the strip.
Huget didn't stick with the strip for long, perhaps chafing at her lack of a writing credit. Phil Cook took over on July 26 and did a creditable job as well. It was all for naught though, because the strip was cancelled after just five months in the papers, expiring on September 25 1926. Why it didn't catch on is a bit of a mystery, although the surfeit of other flapper strips already infesting the funnies pages was probably no help. It could also be that, as is often the case with licensed features, the royalties were spread too thinly and no one ended up making enough money to suit them.
Although the strip had a very short run, Bell Syndicate eventually gave it a second life by selling off the backlog of strips to an outfit called American Newspaper Features. That firm sold the strip to newspapers looking for cheap material in 1929 and the early 30s, presumably without the handicap of paying royalties to Loos.